Australia supports the largest population of free-ranging, one-humped camels Camelus dromedarius in the world. These feral camels originated and bred from camels introduced into Australia up to 160 years ago. With estimated doubling of numbers every eight years, it is believed that in 2007 there may have been over one million feral camels. This has been associated with increasing negative impacts on desert ecology, cultural values and human enterprise.
In this paper, the potential to exploit Achilles' heel aspects of camels has been examined; this has helped identify opportunities to either improve or develop methods for broad-scale management of feral camels and their impacts in Australia. This has also highlighted the importance of considering aspects of camel–specific behaviour for the planning and implementation of feral camel management.
Conventional assessment according to ‘ideal' criteria indicates that there are satisfactory levels of humaneness and cost-effectiveness in some or all situations where methods are currently used for broad-scale management of feral camels and their impacts.
Based on the current potential to meet ‘ideal' criteria, as well as a future potential for improvement or development, recommendations have been made for continued use of the following currently-used management methods: aerial and ground surveys; destructive aerial and ground culls; on-site ‘pet-meat' slaughter; trapping; and mustering. The three currently-used methods of exclusion fencing are not recommended for broad-scale management of feral camels and their impacts; their application is only suitable for protection of localised areas of high value. Five currently-unused, but impending management methods (satellite remote sensing, habitat modelling, ‘Judas' animal technique, on-site ‘game-meat' slaughter, on-site abattoir slaughter) are recommended for development and use. Another two currently-unused management methods have been considered to have sufficient potential to warrant further investigation—attractant and humane biocide.
Opportunities have been identified where complementary use of management methods could improve or develop currently-used methods—in particular through use of satellite remote sensing, habitat modelling, attractants or the ‘Judas' animal technique. These could enhance the predicting, locating and concentrating of feral camel numbers for survey methods and destock approaches. Improvement and integration of destocking activities would facilitate development of on-site abattoir and ‘game-meat' slaughter operations.